Often, WWE is criticized for putting on the same matches over and over again, to the point that fans get frustrated. But in the case of their shareholders, hearing about the company’s financial success never gets old. That trend continued at the company’s quarterly earnings call, held on Thursday evening.
Company Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon kicked off the call, trumpeting the results from the first three months of 2022, largely crediting the record-breaking success of WrestleMania 38 both from the standpoint of live attendance and at-home viewership. With a return to live events after two years of pandemic restrictions and its strong ongoing relationship with Peacock/NBCU and FOX, it seems the company is happy to stay the course strategically and operationally.
“(We’re) pleased with how the business is currently performing and positioned (for the future),” McMahon summed up.
Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan, Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, and Chief Financial Officer Frank Riddick III all concurred with McMahon during their remarks.
Khan credited the return to live events – in particular, Elimination Chamber, which was a major stadium show in Saudi Arabia – as being a key driver for Q1’s record-breaking revenues of $333MM (all figures USD) and OIBDA of $112MM. Another difference-making achievement during the quarter was the launch of the WWE 2K22 video game, a return to that franchise after two years. Ms. McMahon noted that the game received the highest MetaCritic ratings in franchise history.
Much of the call was devoted to trumpeting about the success of WrestleMania 38, which actually took place in Q2 (early April), though some of the associated benefits would have been reaped in Q1.
It was noted that the show broke company records for attendance, viewership, merchandise sales, and sponsorship revenue. Ms. McMahon noted that the event surpassed the NFL’s Superbowl in terms of social media impressions and online video reviews.
Ultimately, though, it was reinforced that the company’s performance lies in the success of its live events. Khan highlighted that a European tour had taken place during the quarter, a preface to the upcoming stadium event scheduled to take place in Cardiff, Wales – the first major Premium Live Event to take place in the UK in three decades.
“There is a lot of pent-up demand and excitement locally (for the event),” said Khan, noting that over 80,000 registrations have already been received for advance tickets. In addition, he reported that 95% of all hotel rooms in Cardiff have already been booked in advance.
The Wales event is one of the major international televised events scheduled in 2022, along with one more to be held in Saudi Arabia as part of that lucrative long-term deal. While they did not indicate any more would be scheduled in 2022, Khan noted that “we always look for (global) opportunities for stadium shows to see where else they may work for us.”
On the strength of an anticipated full year of live events, the company remained optimistic about its financial targets for the rest of 2022, maintaining projected OIBDA of $360MM to $375MM, which would be another all-time record.
- As is customary, Khan provided some details around the industry atmosphere, noting that WWE is bucking industry trends as it relates to its success on Peacock. He noted that while viewership of other streaming services is stagnating or decreasing, WWE is actually gaining viewers, pointing to a 61% increase in viewers of WrestleMania 38 compared to WrestleMania 37.
- The company provided some more details around its multi-year partnership arrangement with the A&E cable network. That deal includes the development of 130 hours of content, including: 35 new hours of the Biography series profiling WWE Superstars and Legends; 24 new hours of the Most Wanted Treasures show; a new series called Rivals which will focus on famous WWE rivalries; and a Biography post-show, which will feature interviews with the star profiled on the episode, their colleagues, friends, and family.
- The next class of athletes who will participate in the Next In Line developmental program will be announced soon.
- Khan was asked if there were any thoughts about bundling RAW and Smackdown into the Peacock offering when the current broadcasting deals for those shows expire. Khan didn’t rule it out, noting that bundling can be a strong bargaining tool. Though he noted that in light of the strong partnerships the company has with FOX (which broadcasts Smackdown), “we’ll talk with both incumbents first” before contemplating any changes.
- Stephanie noted that the company will be targeting gamers, as a substantial percentage of WWE fans identify as such. Part of that will include a new roleplaying mobile game, details of which will be announced soon.